Best Values in 2015 Cars: Best in Class
For our Best Value Awards, Kiplinger's chooses a Best in Class (as well as a Best New) vehicle in 15 categories.
Car buyers have plenty to celebrate in 2015: The lowest gas prices since the Great Recession, rock-bottom interest rates and an improving economy are fueling a boom in new-car sales. In a bid for more market share, carmakers are targeting ever-smaller niches.
With such a large selection of vehicles and fierce competition for consumers’ attention, buying a new car can be overwhelming. And while you won’t find deals across the board, there are plenty to be had -- you just need to know where to look. Kiplinger’s picks can help you narrow the field.
Winners are selected based on value factors (such as fuel economy and resale values), performance and safety, as well as driving impressions from our own road tests. Take a look.
KELLEY BLUE BOOK FAIR PURCHASE PRICE: The Kelley Blue Book® Fair Purchase Price for new cars is generally the midpoint of the Fair Market Range. It is Kelley Blue Book's estimate of what a consumer could reasonably expect to pay in during the period between December 19, 2014 through January 15, 2015 for a new vehicle with standard options, excluding taxes, title and fees. It's based on actual new-car transactions, plus data from other reliable third-party sources as well as market conditions.
MSRP: The MSRP, or Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, is the price set by the manufacturer and does not necessarily reflect the price actually paid by consumers in your area. The MSRP shown here includes destination and freight charges but excludes services and handling fees and state and local tax, title and license fees.
INVOICE PRICE: Dealer invoice represents the dealer’s cost for the vehicle only and doesn’t include any of the dealer’s costs for advertising, selling, preparing, displaying or financing the vehicle.
Cars Under $20,000: Mazda3 i Sport
- Sticker price: $19,765 (4dr hatch, manual)
- Invoice price: $18,951
- Resale value: 3-year: 55%; 5-year: 39%
- MPG: City: 29; Hwy: 40
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $18,654
The Mazda3 might be small in stature, but it packs a punch in value. The winner of last year’s Best New Car Award in this category sports above-average resale values, impressive fuel economy and loads of cargo space, whether you choose the sedan or hatchback. Options include a regenerative-braking system to save fuel, plus safety features such as adaptive headlamps and blind-spot monitoring.
Cars $20,000-$25,000: Ford Fusion
- Sticker price: $24,760 (SE)
- Invoice price: $22,904
- Resale value: 3-year: 47%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 22; Hwy: 34
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $22,974
The Fusion keeps comfort and safety top of mind, and its powertrain options—from the base model with a standard 1.5-liter EcoBoost engine to hybrid and plug-in hybrid models—help you maximize your power-to-economy ratio. Available features include options typical of the entry-luxury class, such as cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, and a lane-keeping system that uses sensors to warn you if you’re drifting and guides you back into your lane if you don’t react.
Cars $25,000-$30,000: Volkswagen Passat TDI
- Sticker price: $27,645 (SE, manual)
- Invoice price: $26,546
- Resale value: 3-year: NA; 5-year: NA
- MPG: City: 30; Hwy: 44
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $25,931
The Passat TDI’s revamped 2.0-liter diesel has torque to spare and gives the car a range of more than 800 miles between fill-ups. That makes the TDI our favorite Passat model, although you can also choose a four- or six-cylinder gas engine. The Passat hasn’t been redesigned since 2012, but its clean-cut styling inside and out still looks state of the art. Inside, there’s ample room for passengers and cargo, and a rearview camera is available across the lineup.
Cars $30,000-$40,000: Honda Accord
- Sticker price: $31,315 (EX-L V6)
- Invoice price: $28,709
- Resale value: 3-year: 54%; 5-year: 42%
- MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 34
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $28,643
The Accord tops its price category with high resale values, a roomy interior and a standard rearview camera. The V6 is no slouch on fuel economy, but a hybrid model that gets 50 miles per gallon in the city is available, too. Connect to music with standard Pandora Internet radio and reach contacts with audio SMS text messaging integration. A Best New Car Award winner in 2013, the Accord has won Best in Class five of the past seven years.
Cars $40,000-$50,000: BMW 3 Series sedan
- Sticker price: $44,700 (335i)
- Invoice price: $41,380
- Resale value: 3-year: 52%; 5-year: 35%
- MPG: City: 21; Hwy: 32
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $40,364
The BMW 3 series combines power, precision and prestige in a value package. A trio of gas engines are available, as well as a diesel model and a hybrid. Tech features abound, too. The flip of a switch changes the driving dynamics from Comfort to Sport, Sport + or Eco Pro mode, and all models come with automatic stop-start and brake-energy-regeneration systems to save fuel.
Cars $50,000 and Over: Mercedes-Benz S Class sedan
- Sticker price: $95,325 (S550)
- Invoice price: $88,652 (estimated)
- Resale value: 3-year: 51%; 5-year: 33%
- MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 26
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $93,370
Last year’s winner of Best New Car plaudits takes top honors again with the best combination of power and fuel-efficiency in its class and a spacious interior. Beneath its traditional facade, the Mercedes flagship is a study in futuristic technology. It’s lit entirely by LEDs, boasts a 12-inch dash display and features a smart suspension system that anticipates the bumps in the road ahead to keep you comfortable.
Wagons: Toyota Prius v
- Sticker price: $27,500 (Two)
- Invoice price: $25,659
- Resale value: 3-year: NA; 5-year: NA
- MPG: City: 44; Hwy: 40
The wagon version of the Prius bests its peers with combined city/highway fuel economy of 42 mpg, cargo space on par with a small crossover and seven airbags, including a knee airbag for the driver. New for 2015: an upgraded Advanced Technology package that includes automatic high beams and lane-departure alert.
Minivans: Honda Odyssey
- Sticker price: $29,855 (LX)
- Invoice price: $27,383
- Resale value: 3-year: 50%; 5-year: 36%
- MPG: City: 19; Hwy: 28
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $27,839
Honda reliability pairs with a plethora of safety features to lift the Odyssey above the competition. (The Odyssey has taken top honors four of the past five years.) Every model includes a rearview camera and audio SMS text message alerts as standard equipment. The top-level Touring Elite model has the ultimate family-friendly feature: an integrated vacuum cleaner.
Small Crossovers: Subaru Forester
- Sticker price: $24,045 (2.5i)
- Invoice price: $22,754
- Resale value: 3-year: 64%; 5-year: 48%
- MPG: City: 24; Hwy: 32
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $22,580
The fourth-generation Forester, introduced last year, is among the roomiest in its segment, with generous legroom and cargo space—a compelling complement to Subaru’s standard all-wheel drive. Every 2015 model gets a rearview camera, and most models offer the optional EyeSight driver assist system ($795), which integrates forward-collision warning with automatic braking and lane-departure warning. The Forester won Best New Small Crossover last year.
Midsize Crossovers: Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Sticker price: $37,490 (Limited)
- Invoice price: $35,931
- Resale value: 3-year: 53%; 5-year: 34%
- MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 25
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $35,488
Whether you’re in the concrete jungle or off the beaten path, the Grand Cherokee capably carries you in style. Leather and wood interior appointments meet rugged features such as the Selec-Terrain traction-control system, which allows you to choose settings for every road. Also available: a diesel model, offering 30 mpg on the highway. Parents will appreciate the optional dual-screen Blu-ray rear-seat entertainment system.
Large Crossovers: Ford Explorer
- Sticker price: $33,795 (XLT)
- Invoice price: $31,574
- Resale value: 3-year: 54%; 5-year: 38%
- MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 24
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $31,953
With seating for seven, large brakes to improve stopping distance and towing performance, and an electric-assisted power-steering rack to give more responsive handling, Explorer is equipped to handle practically anything you throw at it. Curve Control, which can slow the vehicle by up to 10 mph per second if it senses that you are driving too fast around a curve, is standard. Available features include heated second-row seats and adaptive cruise control.
Sports Cars: Chevrolet Corvette
- Sticker price: $54,995 (1LT)
- Invoice price: $50,135
- Resale value: 3-year: 63%; 5-year: 49%
- MPG: City: 17; Hwy: 29
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $52,223
The 2015 ’Vette hooks you with a 21st-century design inspired by the ’63 Sting Ray and a deep, throaty growl from the 6.2-liter, 455-horsepower engine. The Corvette has a practical side, too: An aluminum frame, carbon fiber throughout, direct injection and active fuel management boost fuel economy to a responsible 29 mpg on the highway, without losing an ounce of the thrill. A new option for 2015 is built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi, for staying connected on the road.
Truck-based SUVs: Chevrolet Tahoe
- Sticker price: $45,595 (LS)
- Invoice price: $42,473
- Resale value: 3-year: 54%; 5-year: 40%
- MPG: City: 16; Hwy: 23
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $42,585
The new Tahoe comes with a more powerful and more fuel-efficient engine that helps it get 10% better highway fuel economy than the previous generation. The Tahoe seats up to nine, and fold-flat second and third rows make hauling gear easier. Six USB ports and six power outlets mean every passenger’s devices can stay charged.
Midsize Trucks: Chevrolet Colorado
- Sticker price: $29,505 (Crew Cab LT Long Box)
- Invoice price: $28,073
- Resale value: 3-year: 68%; 5-year: 58%
- MPG: City: 18; Hwy: 26
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $29,416
Reviving the midsize pickup category for 2015, the Colorado leads the segment in power and fuel economy, whether you choose the four- or six-cylinder model. The new Colorado tows up to 7,000 pounds, too. A rearview camera comes standard, and forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning are options.
Full-size Trucks: Chevrolet Silverado
- Sticker price: $29,350 (1500 Regular Cab LS Standard Box)
- Invoice price: $28,223
- Resale value: 3-year: NA; 5-year: NA
- MPG: City: 18; Hwy: 24
Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price: $28,704
Chevy’s workhorse has high resale values and respectable fuel efficiency, managed by a trio of engine options (from a 4.3-liter V6 to a 6.2-liter V8) that all feature direct injection and cylinder deactivation. The Silverado can tow up to 12,000 pounds, charge your tech devices (with up to five USB ports and a 110-volt outlet) and keep you safe with available features that include a rearview camera and forward-collision warning.